The proposal for a New MASP in São Paulo, a project made by Oscar Abrahamsson at Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) is suggesting a new home for Museu de Arte de São Paulo in Brazil. It is an exploration in explicit shape, décor and adornment and new ideas of the urban ground in creating a museum that lowers the threshold between culture and life in the street.
The modern project and the universal cities it produced, utopian in their nature, has imposed an alienating effect upon us. The result of modernism is cities where we don’t feel like home. The New MASP is trying to find ways of re-introducing this sense of belonging into the city by creating new models of urban life, while dwelling within the context of urban fragmentation in the megapolis of São Paulo.
Two simple triangular shapes constitute the building volume – forming new, elevated, grounds – habitable sloped planes that are displacing the urban ground onto the top of the building. Massive, opaque and black, the figure of the building merges in its muteness with the ground. No apertures are present to confuse the simple volumes. Natural light still pours in through the massive skylights established by the “color dips” on the top of each of the triangular shapes. The “color dips”, glazed but highly reflective, are introducing new datums that are further shifting the perception of the ground through acting as fake horizons.
Décor is normally the adornment of a room or the inside of a building. It is inherently concerned with the interior and therefore with domesticity and privacy. Décor has historically been associated with the feminine, “women’s work”, and subjective proclivities, whereas architecture, seen as a more objective “science”, is associated with the public realm, the city, and a universal subject. By taking two elements of décor; upholstery and glass embossment, extracting them from their usual settings and transforming them into an exterior, architectonic expression, the New MASP proposal tries to overcome this reductive dichotomy, whilst utilizing the familiarity of the décor to lend a new sense of belonging to the urban context. These two interior elements become the facade of the building and thus acquire very different material qualities. The scalar shift involved in this transformation lends the project a surreal appearance as the facade treatment oscillates between reading as too-big and too-small, and creates a building which is anti-tectonic and buoyant and where surface area seems more apparent than interior space.
In the current confusion of the program of the museum lies a paradoxical relationship between, on the one hand, the intimacy of experincing art, and on the other hand, through the sheer weight of the commercial dimension of late museum developments, an introduction of a degree of pure etartainment, where museums compete with shopping malls and cinemas about being the stage of contemporary culture. By dividing the program of the New MASP into two parts; the open-air slopes on top of the volumes can cater for leisure activities like a bar, restaurant terrace and outdoor performances and seating, and the interior cascade of terraces around a void space caters for a new sense of intimacy in relation to the art. By exposing the program on the outside, the building broadcasts itself out into the public, and makes the public participants of the life of the museum. The inside becomes like a landscape of art along the cascade of terraces, a long stair which connects a series of spaces and enables the visitor to move through space at their own pace, and discover the art for themselves in a more spontaneous and casual way.
The project’s alternative arrangements of interior and exterior present us with other possibilities in terms of how we occupy space and thereby, how we interact with one another. The New MASP is not anymore an elitist museum of isolation and contemplation – but rather becomes a place of congregation and life, a vehicle of new social space and urban change.
Design: Oscar Abrahamsson
Advisor: Elena Manferdini